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Finding an affordable projector screen

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If you’re like I was, finishing out the game room can really stretch your wallet thin.  One of the places I originally skimped on was my home theater screen.  Instead of buying a screen, I made a painted wall.

Painted Wall Screen

Originally when I finished my theater, I painted the front wall with ultra white from Home Depot.  In order to make a border around the screen, I bought 1 x 4’s from Home Depot and wrapped them in black velvet to make a border that absorbed all extra light.  It worked really well for quite a while, but I was never quite satisfied with the picture.  Eventually, I moved onto a new option…

Fabric Theater Screen

After the painted wall, I upgraded to a fabric screen.  When I was first looking at fabric screens, they were all between $500 and $1000 for a 120″ screen.  To me, that was too much when a painted wall was like $50 and offered 90% of performance.  That changed  img_3132-smallthough a couple years ago when I found this from Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CYLOTPK/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

$249 for a 120″ screen was a big savings over what I was looking at before.  How could I lose?  So I went ahead and ordered one.

Putting it together was fairly straightforward, but getting the canvas all stretched out required a bit of effort.  2 years later it still looks great,STR-169120 Silver Ticket 120" Diagonal screen maybe the only slight issue is that there might be a slight bow in the middle (but you’d never notice until you really really looked hard for it).

I’ve tried to take some pictures of the screen.  The one on top is one with my side lights on, the one on the bottom is one with the side lights off.  Projector is a Viewsonic Pro8100 that I’ve owned for quite a while, so with a better projector it could look even better.  The source material is also not high def, fyi.

Hope this helps for those looking for an economical screen solution.  The painted wall definitely works as a temporary solution, but the screen is definitely a better long term solution.

Game room dimmers

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One of the things that a lot of people need in their game room is controlled lighting.  It can come in very handy whether you’re watching TV, playing pinball, etc.

There are a variety of different dimmers on the market, but in general the most popular ones are made by Lutron.  In my home theater, I installed 4 of the infrared controlled lutron-dimmerdimmers to control my different lighting sections.  The only downside is that you basically need some sort of smart remote if you have more than one of the dimmers, as the remote that comes with it will control all of the switches at once (instead of independently).  I bought a Harmony 650 remote to control the switches.

I have a picture from my home theater at the right.  The presets are what you use in order to come up with the lighting sets you want.  I have mine set to turn off the main lights and just have the side lights on, works great when trying to watch the screen and you need a little light.

Game Room Cornhusker Sign

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Cornhusker Metal Sign
Nebraska Cornhusker Red Metal Sign

I found this sign at a local festival today.  It was $60, which I thought was a pretty good price considering how large it is.

Cornhusker Metal Sign
Nebraska Cornhusker Red Metal Sign

The maker of the sign is Swen Products, and their website is here:

http://www.swenproducts.com/

They had quite a bit of stuff from signs to light switch covers to rain gauges.  If you have a favorite college team and have been looking for a sign, you can’t go wrong with Swen.  I was also going to order some light switch covers but they didn’t have the double ones with them at the festival.

 

How much does a pinball machine weigh?

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Row of pinball machines in a Game Room
Pinball row in a game room

One of the questions that gets asked a lot is, “How much does a pinball machine weigh?”.  For most of the games of the games from the 80’s to today, games weigh around 250 pounds.  There are a few exceptions to that though.  Widebody games from 90’s (Twilight Zone, Star Trek The Next Generation, etc) weight close to 300 pounds, and Pinball 2000 games weigh almost 350 pounds.  The new games from Jersey Jack Pinball are very heavy as well, with Wizard of Oz weighing in a 310 pounds and The Hobbit weighing in at 350 pounds.  If you’re buying older EM games, bad news, they’re very heavy as well with some of them pushing 300 or more pounds.  Four player EM games are especially heavy, the two additional reels in the backbox make it especially heavy.

A lot of people try to move pinball machines by picking up both ends (without the legs on) and carrying it like a heavy box up and down stairs.  That works but it’s very heavy to do that.  A much easier way is to use a dolly to move it up and down the stairs.  You’ll still need two people, but it’s much easier to manage the weight.  If it has the legs on, furniture movers also work for sliding it around.  If the game is older and the head removes easy, I highly recommend doing that to save your back.

If you’re trying to move it yourself, another option is a stair climbing dolly, which is why I own.  I own this model:

http://www.powermate.info/powermate_handtruck_l-1.htm

It’s a life saver if you move very many games up and down stairs.  Probably the best money I’ve ever spent in the pinball hobby (got it off craigslist).  With that, you can move a game by yourself pretty easily as long as you take your time and have adequate upper body strength.

 

Game room lighting

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LED can lights
Can lights with LED bulbs in them

When I first built my game room, I used a ton of can lighting.  I think in the 1400 sq ft I finished, I had almost 50 can lights.  That produced great lighting effects, but it had two particularly bad side effects, heat and cost of running the lights.

As a result, any time I’d have people over for a party, my basement would inevitably heat up higher and higher due to the lights.  I tried CFL’s, but those burned out rapidly (although they were supposed to last a long time).  Plus they were more expensive without much benefit.

Finally technology saved me last year, with LED lights finally becoming affordable enough to put into my basement.  I ordered a bunch from Amazon and started replacing the existing bulbs.  WHAT A DIFFERENCE!  Low heat, instant on, better lighting, etc.  No disadvantages at all other than the initial cost.

LED bulb in a spotlight can
LED bulb in the off state, looks a little different than your standard bulb

After the game room experiment, we replaced all of our lights with LED’s.  Never changing a bulb for 20 years is pretty appealing besides all the other advantages.

Here’s a link to some of the bulbs I ordered:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LGIXFNE/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00YI5TNXI/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

Home Theater Furniture for cheap

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Second day with a post, sure I won’t keep up that pace.  🙂  In any case, I thought that I touch on something every basement or game room needs, furniture.  And in this case, home theater recliners are the subject.  At stores, a row of three chairs is usually going to cost $1500 to $2000, depending on the brand.  Those same chairs though can be picked up used for like 1/3 of the price off craigslist.  Unlike other furniture people have that they sell, home theater chairs are often in stellar shape, as people often buy them and then never use them (kind of like workout equipment).  As far as what I’d buy, you’re going to have to see what’s available first, often you don’t have much choice.  If you’re lucky, one with the right color and configuration will be available.

If you haven’t sat in very many home theater chairs, there are a couple things to keep in mind.  First, if you’re tall, the back may not support your head or feet very well.  Some models are also pretty narrow, so they’re not very comfortable for some adults.  My favorite chairs are the Berkline 90’s that they used to make before they went out of business.  Lane tried to duplicate the model later but it didn’t really turn out right unfortunately, the originals were far superior (I had both at the same time, and the Berklines were way more comfortable).

Last thing to take note of is there are a lot of really cheap chairs out there, some of which aren’t the greatest.  Might also be hard to find parts for some brands (although what are the chances that a chair will break).  I would try stick with names you’re familiar with unless you come across some really great deal.

How to build a game room on a budget

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Pinball Machines in Game Room
NBA Fastbreak and X-Men pinball machiens

For the first post of my new blog, I thought I’d approach a subject that a lot of people are interested in, which is how to build a game room on a budget.  If you go to local stores, you’ll see big price tags and wonder how you could ever afford all the things in there.  Hopefully I can provide some information on how to build a nice game room with limited resources.

The biggest key in obtaining items on a budget is:

  • monitoring craigslist or other classifieds for deals
  • when you find that deal, be prepared to act on it immediately.  Having cash on hand is key a lot of times, things are usually listed on the weekends and banks may be closed.
  • if it’s a great deal, don’t bother trying to barter it lower, just tell them you’ll take at the low price they’re already at.

One of the easiest things to acquire at a discount is a pool table.  Unlike a lot of other game room equipment, pool tables are very hard to move, which makes them excellent candidates to pick up used from craigslist or other local advertisers.  Often, home owners who are trying to move will list tables that are thousands of dollars new for free if you’ll move them out of their house.  With a little bit of sweat equity, you could have a pretty nice table for minimal money.

Second on this list would be foosball tables.  Now there are two types of foosball tables that you can pick up used, there are the mostly junky ones that were kind of cheaply made to begin with, and then there are the tornado ones which are way beyond everything else.  I would recommend getting a used tornado foosball more than the other ones, the price difference usually isn’t that great and if you have to sell down the line, the tornado one will hold it’s value much better.  I would look for a 50% or better discount on one.  Tornado Whirlwinds are the ones I see pop up the most often, they may be a few years old but they all play roughly the same.  $350 to $400 would be a decent price to obtain one of those at.  Occasionally they’ll pop up for really cheap, but to get those you’ll have be pretty quick.

While looking for these, you may also air hockey tables for sale at good prices, which may be tempting.  I would recommend staying away from those for the most part, the play on home air hockey tables is poor compared to the commercial version you play in arcades.  Pool tables, foosball, pinball, ping pong, are all the same as in arcades, but air hockey isn’t.

Another thing you can pick up cheap is ping pong tables.  While not very expensive to begin with, $50 used is still cheaper than $300 new.  If you’re really lucky you can get one for free, but I wouldn’t count on that.  There will probably be a ton to choose from if you’re anywhere close to a major metropolitan area, ping pong tables are sold quite a bit.

Past those items, things like pinball machines are much more expensive.  I’ll write a post on buying those later.  🙂